Hans is the NBAMate fantasy dude and resident expert of 80′s teen movies. Occasionally he looks up from his box scores and player splits and PER rankings to find time to dispense his fantasy wisdom. This is one of those times.

Forget about asylum seekers, forget the new Twilight movie and forget the upcoming AFL draft. I think it’s pretty fair to say that the talk of teh interwebz over the last few weeks has been about my first fantasy piece on NBAMate. Heck, I’ve become so popular I can barely keep up with all the new messages on my Facebook page. Check it out:

 

But enough said about that. On to some fantasy NBA thoughts.

Injuries

Only 3 things in this world are guaranteed: Death, Taxes and Fantasy NBA teams affected by injuries. I don’t know why I get as frustrated as I do when someone on my team misses time with a leg contusion or an ankle sprain. Injuries have always been a part of sports and they always will be, but with every injury comes a newfound opportunity, and here are some injury fill-ins you may want to look to as short term pickups:

J.J Hickson (PF/C)
Last 5 games without Shaq: 68.9% FG, 70% FT, 15.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.8 t/o

The ability to be in the right spots on offense and finish at the rim has made Hickson one of LeBron’s favourite targets, leading to a Shaq-like FG%. Unfortunately, JJ should only be picked up if you need a FG% boost as his rebounding and blocks are well below par.

When will Shaq return? Thursday is the target date, but note that Hickson was moved into the starting lineup at the expense of Varejao, not Shaq, so he’ll still have the starting gig once the big fella returns.

Dahntay Jones (SG/SF)
Last 8 games as a starter: 50.0% FG, 75.0% FT, 18.8 ppg, 0.3 3pg, 4.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.6 bpg, 2.5 t/o

If Dahntay is still available in your 10 team league and you have someone you’re itching to drop, then go ahead and make the switch now! Jones was inserted into the starting line up due to a Troy Murphy back injury and boy have the results been impressive – those combined steal and block averages are as valuable as gold. What is most surprising is that Jones has shown no signs of being anything but a defensive stopper throughout his career so expect him to regress. But till then, ride the Train until it runs out of steam.

When will Murphy return? He already has, coming off the bench for the last 2 games while Jones’ minutes remained unaffected. One would think Dahntay is playing well enough to keep his starting gig ahead of Brandon Rush.

Drew Gooden  (PF/C)
Last 4 games without Dampier: 50.0% FG, 81.8% FT, 14.8 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 1.3 bpg, 1.8 t/o

Gooden is a bit of a maligned fantasy player in my eyes. Yes, he seems like a goofball with a low “Basketball IQ”, but when given the minutes he’ll give you a double-double with nice %’s and the odd steal and block. You’d be hard pressed to find much better on your waiver wire.

When is Dampier coming back? Anyone’s guess. The Mavs have kept quiet on Dampier’s ‘mystery illness’, though I suspect he’s suffering from a case of “we-have-to-stop-him-playing-too-many-minutes-so-he-doesn’t-meet-his-contract-incentive-itis”.

Jason Williams (PG)
Last 3 games without Jameer: 40.0% FG, 70.0% FT, 9.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.3 rpg, 2.0 spg, 1.0 t/o

J-Will has been hopping off waiver wires recently as Nelson goes down with yet another serious injury. The good news is that Williams still appears to have some juice left in the tank and is getting heavy minutes ahead of the other potential replacement Anthony Johnson. That said, I’d only pick up Williams in a 12 team if you’re desperate for assists, 3’s and steals. (On another note, I love watching Williams handle the ball. I know that might sound trivial, but just watching how comfortable he is with the dribble is one the little things that make you love this game).

When is Nelson returning? His knee injury will keep him out for at least another couple of weeks.

Ersan Ilyasova (SF/PF)
Last 4 games without Mbah a Moute/Bogut: 51.2% FG, 83.3% FT, 15.0 ppg, 1.5 3pg, 7.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.3 t/o

Watching the Bucks play I’d thought Bogut had gone back to wearing to mask, but no, the masked man has actually been the Turkish Delight (the mandatory nickname for all Turkish players), who can fill it up from the outside while also being a surprisingly competent rebounder. The Bucks minute situation is a bit of mess with Bogut out long term, Redd returning this week and Mbah a Moute only a game or so away, but it’s not a bad idea to pick up Ersan and wait to see how it all settles out.

When are Moute and Bogut returning? Moute is day-to-day and if you don’t know about Bogut then what are you doing on this site?!?

Top 10

Time to turn our attention to the big names. Obviously, first round draft picks form the foundation of a fantasy team and having a underperforming superstar puts a fantasy team at an immediate and significant disadvantage. Here are the top 10 issues currently facing players who were likely to have been drafted in the first round:

1. How much better can LeBron get?
52.7% FG, 78.5% FT, 29.4 ppg, 1.6 3pg, 6.8 rpg, 8.1 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.8 bpg, 3.7 t/o

LeBron James does not stand out when watching the Cavs play. Yes, there are too many times when the Cavs offense will revert to a LeBron iso and the chase down blocks are always spectacular. But for long periods, LeBron is so effortlessly immersed in the flow of a game that the rebounds he gobbles up, the assists he dishes out and the bullish drives to the basket all seem to come within the natural pace of the game.

It’s only when you look at the boxscore afterwards do you realise the numerical impact he’s had. All of a sudden he’s got 30 points, 7 assists and 8 rebounds and you don’t know how it happened. Yes, he has the talent to inch those numbers towards a triple double, but he knows the Cavs don’t need him to do that  on a regular basis (the Knicks would be different story though).

I know Chris Paul has been the consensus #1 pick the last few seasons, but LeBron has always been my top choice.

2. D-Wade’s career-low FG%
44.1% FG, 77.1% FT, 28.1 ppg, 1.2 3pg, 4.9 rpg, 5.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 1.2 bpg, 3.2 t/o

Should Wade’s owners be worried about his recent poor shooting performances? Well, they should be annoyed at his insistence on shooting 3-pointers, but the low FG% is not an issue. Don’t blame Wade but instead give credit to the string of defenders he’s recently faced: Joe Johnson, Sefolosha and yes, even Jarrett Jack. I’d put my money on Dwyane being the league-leading scorer by season’s end and even though the assists are down a little this year it’s hard not to like those all-around numbers.

3. Kobe: what’s changed?
47.4% FG, 86.7% FT, 29.9 ppg, 0.4 3pg, 5.2 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.9 t/o

This blog already touched on Kobe’s move away from the 3-point line and into the post. Pau’s absence has also meant he’s had to go into attack mode on offense, upping the points, lowering the assists and doing crazy things like this. I wouldn’t even call this increased offensive output selfish as he’s been doing things so efficiently. With the Laker roster intact, normality should be resumed meaning the 3′s and assists will go up and the points will go down.

4. Was Durant worthy of a top 6 pick?
44.6% FG, 85.0% FT, 27.1 ppg, 0.9 3pg, 6.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.8 bpg, 3.3 t/o

Chances are KD was taken very early in your fantasy drafts as the hype machine (understandably) went into overdrive. But looking at the numbers, I’m not sure whether he has justified being taken in the top half of round 1. Ideally you’d want more than just 2 or 3 strong cats from an early draft pick and the only things that stand out for Durant are the points and FT%. Everything else is kind of ‘meh’, particularly the fg% and the rebounds.  He’s actually not that far removed from a mid-tier swingman like Rudy Gay. Bottom line is that Durant is still young and inconsistent but his potential and versatility means you shouldn’t trade him on the cheap.

5. Trouble on the horizon for Danny Granger?
42.6% FG, 81.3% FT, 24.2 ppg, 3.0 3pg, 6.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.3 bpg, 2.8 t/o

Does any player have a greener light than Granger? He’s leading the league in 3pt attempts per game, but while that tremendously helps your team’s 3pt category, it also does no favours for your FG%. I have no qualms about Granger’s production though – his numbers are more than acceptable. What I do have an issue with is Granger’s lingering heel problem, perhaps the most underreported injury of the season. Every so often you hear about how Granger’s heel is causing him discomfort – in fact he’s gonna miss the next few weeks of practice to rest it. I’m worried that this might carry over to regular season games, causing him to miss the odd game here and there. Don’t do anything rash, but it might be wise for Granger owners to consider offloading him at some point.

6. Dirk: defensive specialist?
44.4% FG, 90.1% FT, 26.9 ppg, 0.9 3pg, 8.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.6 bpg, 1.5 t/o

Dirk is known as the "solid, but boring" 1st round pick. This season though, there’s plenty to be excited about (well, as much as you can get excited by stats anyways), beginning with the uptick in steals and blocks. The block average is skewed by a rare 5 block game earlier in the season and I’d expect both this and the steals to taper out to around 1 of each per game, though I’m thinking they may rest on the positive side of the 1.0 average for the first time in 4 years.

The Big German is also currently averaging a career high in points – numerous times Jason Kidd has said in post game interviews that Dirk has had to shoulder too much of the offensive load. The points may not drop too far, but increased help on offense from the likes of Marion & Howard should lead to increased efficiency (i.e. a higher fg%) in the long term.

7. Dwight knows how Greg Oden feels
62.5% FG, 57.6% FT, 17.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.7 bpg, 2.8 t/o

The defensive player of the year can’t catch a break. It’s been 2 early fouls and a quick seat on the bench for Dwight, resulting in a reduced number or minutes that has dragged down the rebounding and block averages. When he is on the court though, it’s evident that his teammates aren’t looking for him enough – there’s no way he should be taking less than 10 shots per game. If you can handle the hit in FT% now would be a good time to buy low on Dwight.

8. Have we seen the best of Amare?
55.6% FG, 72.9% FT, 19.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.1 bpg, 2.9 t/o

Without a doubt, Amare is down a bit this season. But is it a result of his recovery from eye surgery or possibly something else?

First up, I think his low ft% could very well be attributed to his retina problems – watching him at the line he looks so low on confidence for a guy with decent shooting form.

As for the rebounds and to a lesser extent the blocks, I think that Amare benefitted greatly from having Shaq around to take the big man responsibilities off his shoulder’s. With Shaq gone, Amare hasn’t yet risen to the task defensively or on the boards, while the Suns are simply not getting him as many shots on offense as his owners would like.

Watching the Suns play the Lakers a couple of weeks ago I saw Amare have as tough of a time he’s ever had offensively against the bigger, stronger,  longer, younger Andrew Bynum. It made me reminisce back to the Suns of yesteryear when Amare had the basketball world at his feet, running  around and jumping over older, slower big men until microfracture robbed Amare (and fans) of his explosiveness. Now with an influx of young big men like Bynum, Oden and Dwight, perhaps the tables have turned somewhat and maybe the best version Amare Stoudemire has already come and gone.

Sit tight Amare owners, it could be a frustrating season.


(AP Photo/Bob Levey)

9. Roy unsettled by Portland backcourt issues
44.8% FG, 79.8% FT, 19.8 ppg, 1.3 3pg, 4.4 rpg, 5.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.9 t/o

Nate McMillan continues to mix and match the Blazers backcourt line ups as he attempts to find the right pairing for Brandon Roy. Unsurprisingly this has led to wildly inconsistent performances from the usually reliable Roy – he’s had 4 games in which he’s shot over 55% from the field, but he’s also had another 4 games at under 35%. Fortunately, the inconsistency only appears to apply to his fg%. His remaining stats are very close to last year’s production (well, besides the steals – not sure what’s going on there), so there’s no need to panic for Roy owners.

10. "Don’t forget about me!" says Chris Bosh
50.9% FG, 77.0% FT, 26.6 ppg, 0.4 3pg, 11.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.4 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.7 t/o

“Every day I turn on the TV and they’re talking about guys, especially my draft class, ’03 draft class, and this and that. They keep bringing up all these and I never hear my name, unless I’m like second honourable mention or something like that. I got tired of that…I don’t even think people know I’ve made All-Star teams or know what I’ve done in this league.”
- Chris Bosh, November 2009

Don’t worry Chris, you’ll always be first honourable mention in the eyes of fantasy team owners!

Clearly a career year for the rubber-necked big man. His aggressive on offense has led to a significant increase in free throw attempts, he’s hitting the boards (though it’s not like Bargnani will steal many of his rebounds away) and he’s even hitting the odd 3 pointer. I’ve always preferred Bosh over fellow 1st round big men Jefferson and Amare, and I like his chances of keeping up these career numbers.

Random thoughts

The New Orleans Hornets are in a constant state of flux. A new Coach and Chris Paul’s injury have opened the door for several players. Darren Collison appears to be a good short term add for assists and points. He’s unconscious on the offensive end too, as in he unconsciously takes awful shots. Marcus Thornton can score in bunches and will help you out in 3′s and steals, however his rebounding and assist totals are atrocious. Nowadays Peja Stojakovic is simply a single cat contributor, while I wouldn’t bother with Devin Brown.

Check if Chris Douglas-Roberts is available in your Free Agent pool. The man has an ugly shot but he can sure put points on the board.

Yes, Russell Westbrook can be a FG% and t/o killer but the remaining stats are impressive. Not many players can match his 16/5/7 combination.

Elton Brand has shown signs of life recently but that hasn’t stopped the 76ers from losing. Thaddeus Young is closer to ‘avoid altogether’ than ‘buy low’. Andre Iguodala still appears to be the barometer for team success in Philly.

The Phoenix Suns are the highest scorers in the league yet none of their players is averaging above 20 ppg. Coach Gentry has even had to urge Channing Frye to take more shots so Frye owners can expect the 3′s to keep coming. Keep Leandro Barbosa on your watch list but there’ s no reason to pick him up just yet.

Players usually step their game up in a contract year but the opposite is currently happening for Ray Felton. He’s on the verge of being droppable in 12 team leagues.

Ben Wallace has drunk from the fountain of youth but that still only makes him a viable pickup in very deep leagues.

Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have already missed multiple games due to assorted injuries. This is why I try to avoid having any Spurs (or Celtics) on my roster.


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